Catching more ovarian cancers

June 25, 2008 2:11:09 PM PDT
For years, doctors have struggled with ways to save more women. Right now, 15,000 die every year.

A combination approach may catch more ovarian cancer early - when it's treatable.

Right now most cases aren't caught until very late.

But doctors at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center say by combining a blood test called a CA-125 with a questionnaire about symptoms, they were able to catch 80-percent of tumors in the early stage.

The blood test by itself is only about 60-percent effective and can have false positives.

But pairing it with symptoms like abdominal pain and bloating or feeling full quickly while eating made the difference.

Other symptoms of ovarian cancer include pelvic pain, and increased abdomen size.

Dr. Robyn Andersen, lead researcher on the study, says most women experience these symptoms a few days a month, due to their menstrual cycles. But it is a sign of trouble when those symptoms occur 20 days a month.

Melissa Rivkin, who lost her mother Marsha just days before her mother would have been 50 years, says the new finding could change survival rates. "The week my mom died she said 'Don't let this happen to you.'"